I shall forever be indebted to Zang Tuum Tumb, the esoteric name for a record label that in the 1980s was home to some of the most astounding acts in Europe. Frankie Goes to Hollywood were there, so were The Art of Noise and 808 State.
But for Porky the jewel in the empire was Propaganda a German four-piece whose Teutonic rhythms and approach to music were generally broadcast in English.
Thanks to intense back cataloguing spearheaded by Ian Peel, virtually everything Propaganda has recorded has been reissued this century (and they were one of the protagonists of the remix, overdoing the concept perhaps), including their immense debut album, the vinyl version of which was spun dozens of times in Porky home.
Naturally, the band feature on The Organisation of Pop a brilliant double collection of ZTT material, much of it now hard to find. Duel and Dr Mabuse, receive the rewind treatment, but there’s no P-Machinery, strangely. I guess squeezing as much as possible in was always going to be an enormous task for Peel and his cohorts, and it’s gratifying to see Grace Jones’ sleek Slave to the Rhythm, 808 State’s groundbreaking Pacific State 707, Kirsty MacColl’s piano version of Angel and Act’s Snobbery and Decay included. There are other, bigger, hits from Seal, Adamski, Tom Jones (in his first steps at reviving his image of a granny-pleaser) and a beautiful ballad by Shane MacGowan and Sinead O’Connor.
Bypassing Lisa Stansfield and All Saints is a necessity, of course, but such blips are rather rare.
Meanwhile, ZTT have also released their latest instalment of the art of the remix in full, the appropriately entitled The Art of the 12”, Volume Three, which, as well as many of the above mentioned acts, also includes the maligned Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Madness, Yes and M, offering versions of various hits. Much of this is previously unreleased.
IT WOULD would be stating the obvious that The Sparks would have had a reasonable influence on much of the 80s electro go-getters. Springing out of the States in the early 1970s, the Mael brothers found Britain more welcoming to their proto-electro glamrock and Russell’s high-octane vocal style. Morrissey was a fan, and in an era when Bowie and Roxy Music were the choice of dandies and outsiders, the Sparks fitted in between.
It’s a timely opportunity to hear New Music For Amnesiacs, the Essential Collection. The version I have is the double, but I would also suggest seeking out the 83-track boxset.
Pretty much everything of note is included, from the haunting, environmentally aware Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, the brother’s anthem, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Two of Us and the 1920s inspired Looks, Looks, Looks. It encompasses the Giorgio Moroder produced era of Beat the Clock, their bizarre team up with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos (Cool Places) and to most recent material such as How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall? and When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’, finishing on an ode to a member of their own fan club Lighten Up, Morrissey. Apart from the bizarre omission of the brilliant Try Outs For the Human Race this is a collection all dandies and outsiders should be sharing with the world at large.